Autumn 2012 sees the release of The Poet’s Dead, the third and most accomplished album to date by Regina, SK sextet Rah Rah. Building on the strong foundation of their last release, the critically acclaimed and iTunes Canada championed Breaking Hearts, this new ten song effort effectively captures a band at the peak of their abilities doing what they do best.
The Poet’s Dead, recorded in late 2011 under the production guidance of indie-rock recording geniuses Gus Van Go and Werner F (The Stills, Hollerado, Priestess), clearly displays that Rah Rah has truly fine-tuned the essence of the band and refined the maturity of their sound.
"Recording with Gus and Werner was one of the most rewarding challenges I've ever been a part of,” says band member Erin Passmore. “They understood how and when exactly to push us and I'm so proud of what we've been able to create with their help and guidance."
Lyrically, The Poet’s Dead showcases some of their finest, most direct songwriting yet and is their strongest collective step forward. From the self-reflections of “20s”, “Prairie Girl” and the album’s title track to the wistful hope of “First Kiss” and the twisted anything-for-love paean “I’m A Killer”, the songs discuss maturity, growing up and life in a rock and roll band from a group that have spent much of the past few years doing exactly that. These are songs handcrafted to make you think, to create dreams and to break your heart.
Rah Rah formed as a trio in 2007, originally created by Erin Passmore (vocals, drums, keys, guitar) and Marshall Burns (vocals, guitar). By 2008 they had been joined by Kristina Hedlund (violin, keys, accordion, vocals) and Erin’s brother Joel Passmore (formerly of Despistado and Sylvie) on bass. Later that year another former Despistado member Leif Thorseth (guitar) also joined the band. The band is rounded out by its newest member, Jeff Romanyk (drums, keys, guitar).
Sometimes you're amazed by how much sound a three-piece band can make, other times, groups just feel like a collective with their big sound and beautiful surplus of voices. Canadians seem particularly good at this latter approach, think big bands like Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, The New Pornographers, and now you can add Regina, Canada's Rah Rah to that list. Boasting six current members, Rah Rah is bursting at the seams with energy, and it feels like every other song features a different lead vocalist. They're an ultra tight rock band, but like those previously mentioned groups, their music feels bigger than a few people, a rock and roll orchestra unleashing their fury.
Their first album since 2010's Breaking Hearts, October 2012's The Poet's Dead is filled with woozy ballads and intense emotions blasted out as rock and roll therapy. Clearly this is the work of veterans comfortable with a variety of styles. The first track, and one of the album's best, “Art and a Wife” is classic rock and roll tinged with a hint of twangy guitar as vocalist Marshall Burns sings “I used to have a guitar though I didn't know what for / And I would play along to some old country song that shook me to the core.” The song feels emotionally strained, even a bit angst-y, but it's delivered with so much fervor and merriment that the happy and sad aspects of the song roll up into one compelling bundle.
While many of the album's strongest moments are distortion fueled and high energy, its single best is title track “The Poet's Dead,” a rollicking, thoughtful track that seems destined for fireside singalongs. If anything, Rah Rah are masters of hooky turns of phrases, turning a pretty typical chord progression into something special with vocal melodies that are familiar, but perfectly catchy and fresh.
In “20s” Rah Rah sings, “I spent my 20s on rock and roll / I'll spend my 30s feeling old.” With the effortless passion the band injects into the song, it sounds like they don't regret devoting their time to rock and roll one bit, we're sure glad that's where they're spending their time.